Dot Hack Sign
Dot hack sign, released in 2002 by studio Bee Train well known for their girls with guns trio (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja). This anime is only one part of the larger .hack franchise which spans manga, light novels, video games, and several anime titles. I knew going into the anime that these other works existed, but what I did not know is how interconnected all of them were. I was unable to determine exactly where in the .hack timeline the sign story line takes place, but it is before the other anime series. On the upside, outside knowledge is not required to enjoy the anime, but it does make certain things a bit more confusing than they need to be. This revolves around characters and events that are referenced, but not really explained, because it is assumed you have seen the other elements of the franchise.
The anime itself runs for 26 episodes with an additional two OVAs. This makes the series both too short and too long at the same time. Dot hack sign is at its core a character-driven show focusing on the characters’ anxieties, issues, and other problems. Now without giving away too much of the plot, if you liked the psychological subtext found in Neogenesis Evangelion, specifically Shinji, then you might like. hack//sign. If you did not like Neogenesis Evangelion, then I would recommend you pass on this show. The main problem with the show is that it spends either too much time on these issues, and at the same time not enough. A 13 episode show focusing on the lead character would have been more than enough time to tell the story. However, 52 episodes could have also worked, with the extra time being given to expand on the side characters, which at times are more interesting than the lead character. I would have also liked to see a little more action as well, to prevent it from being just a talking heads show. This leads me to the conclusion that the show really doesn’t know what it wants to be: action, adventure, mystery, or drama. One thing the show does manage to get right, in my opinion, is piecing out the story so that you are left always wanting to come back for more. Thus even towards the end, when I was less thrilled with the show, I kept coming back because I wanted to see how it would end.
The animation itself is decent, but it has not aged well. With the mainstreaming of MMORGs dot hack sign just looks boring and nothing like what we are now used to seeing in World of Warcraft and other games. It does however make good use of shifting color schemes between the game world and the real world. The music, while not great, is interesting enough and matches the tone of the show rather well.
In closing dot hack sign is an interesting show, but one I can’t really recommend unless you like character driven shows. If you want a story about people stuck inside a videogame, I would recommend you checkout Sword Art Online or Log Horizon. It can currently be found on Hulu.
Rating- 2 stars out of 5
Subtract 1 star if you like action, or dislike Shinji-like characters
Add 1 star if you like character driven dramas that take a long time to play out
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments section below.